Ukraine war: Alleged torture sites and mass graves found in wake of Russian retreat

Izyum, Ukraine - Ukrainian police said Friday that officials had found several torture sites in eastern areas from which Russian troops had recently been forced to retreat.

Forensic experts exhume bodies discovered in mass graves in Izyum.
Forensic experts exhume bodies discovered in mass graves in Izyum.  © REUTERS

"Coming to Balakliya or Izyum, we see a huge number of crimes committed against the civilian population," police chief Ihor Klymenk said in a statement, adding that 10 torture chambers had been discovered.

In the town of Balakliya, up to 40 people were reportedly detained, humiliated and tortured at the local police station during the Russian occupation.

"There was torture, we saw traces of bare electric wires on people's hands through which electricity was sent during interrogations," Klymenko said.

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Six other torture sites were found in Izyum – another eastern city – but had been completely destroyed, he added.

Klymenko reported that an additional 1,000 police officers had been sent to the Kharkiv region to conduct investigations and perform other duties.

A total of more than 200 investigations into possible Russian war crimes have already been initiated.

The UN Human Rights Office said it planned to send investigators to Izyum to investigate the reports. The discovery is shocking and the cause of death of each of the victims must be investigated, a spokeswoman for the UN agency in Geneva said.

In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the reports were "repugnant."

"And sadly, it's in keeping with the kind of depravity and the brutality with which Russian forces have been prosecuting this war against Ukraine and Ukrainian people," he added.

Hundreds of unmarked graves discovered

A Ukrainian serviceman uses a metal detector to inspect one of the mass graves discovered.
A Ukrainian serviceman uses a metal detector to inspect one of the mass graves discovered.  © REUTERS

Speaking on Thursday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had described it as a "mass burial site" in a wooded area. The Defense Ministry said 440 unmarked graves had been found in one area.

Izyum had been captured by Russian troops at the end of March. Last week, under pressure from a Ukrainian counteroffensive, they were driven out.

Oleh Kotenko, the government's commissioner for disappeared persons, cautioned that comparisons should not be made to the atrocities uncovered in Bucha, a suburb of Kiev, at the end of March.

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"I don't want to call this Bucha: here people were buried, let's say, in a more civilized way," Kotenko told Current Time TV.

Hundreds of civilians, some with signs of torture, were found in Bucha after the Russians withdrew. Bucha has since been seen as a symbol of the most serious war crimes in Russia's war on Ukraine, which began on February 24.

A Ukrainian counteroffensive has been gathering momentum in recent weeks and has forced Russian troops to withdraw from several parts of the country.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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